The way to the moon starts in Cologne
Astronauts are to be trained for lunar excursions in Cologne in the near future. To this end, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA), has been planning the construction of a test and training facility called LUNA for years. Now, on March 16, 2022, the North Rhine-Westphalian Minister for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, presented DLR's Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board Klaus Hamacher and DLR's Head of the Space Division Dr. Anke Pagels-Kerp with a funding decision of up to 25 million euros.
Construction of the lunar training facility is still scheduled to begin in 2022. The financing of the project is shared by ESA and DLR: ESA is financing the construction of the hall, while DLR, with the support of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is responsible for the technical equipment of the hall and the attached Lunar Technology Center.
Lunar ambience in Cologne
In the 700-square-meter and nine-meter-high hall, the special environmental conditions of the moon are realistically simulated. Lunar-like dust, so-called regolith, will cover the entire floor of the hall. In addition, lunar-like craters will be replicated and rocks will be present. A suspension system will cushion astronauts to one-sixth their earthly weight, allowing them to experience the reduced gravity of the moon and train realistically in this environment.
Return after more than 50 years
Ever since the two astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon 53 years ago, the plan has been to establish a permanent presence on the moon. To this end, infrastructure is to be gradually placed on the lunar surface. This will enable repeated and longer stays until a lunar station can serve as a research base and living space for the astronauts. "North Rhine-Westphalia is highly innovative: LUNA makes an important contribution to future space missions and strengthens North Rhine-Westphalia as a location for innovation and research by networking many players," said Minister Pinkwart.